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Rules Proposed for Au Pair Program

April 13, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Stricter rules for the nation’s au pair program, which came under scrutiny after a British nanny’s 1997 manslaughter conviction in the death of a Massachusetts baby, are being proposed to help weed out problems.

The U.S. Information Agency, in a proposed rule being published today in the Federal Register, said its goal is strengthening oversight and accountability and reducing ``potential risks of injury to program participants.″

USIA, whose mission is to promote better understanding between the United States and other countries, began administering the au pair program in 1986. Billed as a cultural exchange, the program designates private agencies to bring over young Europeans to stay with U.S. families and provide child care. They earn $139.05 per week and are required to take six credit hours at an accredited college.

Much au pair advertising directed at young Europeans promotes the program as an opportunity to explore life in the United States while glossing over the significant child care responsibilities, USIA said. Meanwhile, American families get the impression that it’s a child care program. To avoid misunderstandings, the new rules require that potential au pairs and host families receive a USIA brochure.

``They will both realize this is an exchange program dealing with education,″ said Jimmye Walker, a USIA spokeswoman. ``The objective is not child care.″

To help spot problems, au pair agencies will be required to provide more information about complaints, au pair placements and surveys about the program in their yearly reports to USIA.

USIA is also requiring telephone interviews between prospective au pairs and their host families.

The new rules, which take effect after a 30-day public comment period, won’t change the fact that USIA doesn’t have the manpower for inspections or investigations. Monitoring is done mostly by community coordinators hired by the au pair agencies.

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